The Jungle

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Food Symbol Icon
Food symbolizes the fundamentally corruptive nature of capitalism. Ordinarily, food nurtures the body and unites the family, as it does during the traditional marriage festivities at the book's beginning. The food in Packingtown, however, is toxic and unnatural, and the meatpackers are too focused on their bottom line to bother selling healthy goods. Moreover, the poor—the ones who work in the factory packing meat for others to consume—are often reduced to foraging in dumps for food for themselves, and this struggle for sustenance further illustrates the industrialists' blatant disregard for the well-being of their workforce.

Food Quotes in The Jungle

The The Jungle quotes below all refer to the symbol of Food. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Dehumanizing Evils of Capitalism Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Dover Publications edition of The Jungle published in 2001.
Chapter 14 Quotes

With one member trimming beef in a cannery, and another working in a sausage factory, the family had a first-hand knowledge of the great majority of Packingtown swindles. For it was the custom, as they found, whenever meat was so spoiled that it could not be used for anything else, either to can it or else to chop it up into sausage. With what had been told them by Jonas, who had worked in the pickle rooms, they could now study the whole of the spoiled-meat industry on the inside, and read a new and grim meaning into that old Packingtown jest—that they use everything of the pig except the squeal.

Related Characters: Jurgis Rudkus, Ona Lukoszaite, Marija Berczynskas, Teta Elzbieta Lukoszaite, Jonas
Related Symbols: Food
Page Number: 111
Explanation and Analysis:

By this point in the novel, Jurgis's family is working in a variety of different industries, all concerned with processing or selling meat in some way. Because they work in different meatpacking capacities, the family is able to see how disgusting most meat sold to the public really is: how unsanitary the factories are, and how much disease is spread by the dirtiness of the plants.

The passage reinforces the family's disillusionment with America and American industry. At first, Jurgis was amused when the factory owners told him that their facilities used every part of the pig except the squeal. As we now realize, the factory's boast is true--because businessmen are so devoted to efficiency, they sacrifice all morality and hygiene. What initially seemed like a good policy for a factory turns out to be a subtle admission of its disgusting, slave-like conditions.

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Food Symbol Timeline in The Jungle

The timeline below shows where the symbol Food appears in The Jungle. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
The Immigrant Experience and Disillusionment Theme Icon
Family, Masculinity, and Individualism Theme Icon
...burly working man. The wedding party is a boisterous, raucous, and emotional affair with elaborate food, drinking, music, and dancing. Guests of all ages, from babies to the elderly, fill the... (full context)
Chapter 2
The Immigrant Experience and Disillusionment Theme Icon
...pools of stinking water, hordes of flies, and garbage dumps where children gather scraps of food. They notice a brickyard where bricks are made out of garbage and a festering pool... (full context)
Chapter 5
The Dehumanizing Evils of Capitalism Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience and Disillusionment Theme Icon
The Horrors of the Meatpacking Industry Theme Icon
...the slaughterhouse. When cows come along that are about to calve and are unfit for food, their entrails are removed and their "slunk" (unborn) calves are processed with the rest of... (full context)
Chapter 7
The Dehumanizing Evils of Capitalism Theme Icon
The children are not well. All the food and medicine available in Packingtown has been doctored with chemicals and dyes. It is impossible... (full context)
Chapter 17
The Dehumanizing Evils of Capitalism Theme Icon
The Immigrant Experience and Disillusionment Theme Icon
The Horrors of the Meatpacking Industry Theme Icon
Family, Masculinity, and Individualism Theme Icon
...Connor's, and has been selling papers downtown; his mother has been reduced to begging for food. Jurgis, devastated, must tell Stanislovas that he cannot help them. As Stanislovas is about to... (full context)
Chapter 20
The Dehumanizing Evils of Capitalism Theme Icon
Labor Rights and Socialism Theme Icon
...are relatively good. The workshops are big and clean, and the on-site restaurant offers affordable food. Each assembly-line worker handles a highly specialized sliver of the manufacturing process: Jurgis's job is... (full context)
Chapter 21
The Dehumanizing Evils of Capitalism Theme Icon
Family, Masculinity, and Individualism Theme Icon
...family while Jurgis looks for work. Teta Elzbieta's one-legged son Juozapas resorts to scavenging for food at the dump. (full context)
The Immigrant Experience and Disillusionment Theme Icon
Family, Masculinity, and Individualism Theme Icon
...conditions the immigrants endure. To help them out of their destitution, she gives the family food and arranges for Jurgis to be hired by her fiancée, a superintendent at a steelworks... (full context)
Chapter 22
Family, Masculinity, and Individualism Theme Icon
...who are mostly hostile to him, Jurgis sleeps in fields and abandoned buildings and forages food from fields. He doesn't worry about money, because he knows he can work paying farmhand... (full context)